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Finding – and Fixing – the ‘Gotchas’ that Inhibit the Customer Journey

This is the sixth post in an 8-part series called “Building a Content-First Organization." See posts one, two, three, four, and five.

The plethora of home renovation shows on cable TV often share a common theme: the “gotchas” that inevitably crop up as the homeowners start tearing down walls and ripping up floors. Hidden problems with plumbing, wiring or other foundational components can stop a project in its tracks.

Overhauling your digital commerce strategy is no different. As you start tearing down functional walls to deliver a customer-driven online experience, you’re likely to discover outdated processes that impede your progress. Just 14% of business leaders in a 2014 Forrester study believe they have the processes in place to successfully execute their digital strategy.

Changing deeply embedded processes is a key step in the integration of content and commerce operations. Delivering a superior digital shopping experience requires processes and workflows that minimize the pain points that customers invariably face as they move along what’s become an often convoluted path to purchase. A “shop.brand.com” subdomain that requires an extra mouse click or two -- and a separate log-in -- is a sure sign of a user-UNFriendly shopping experience. A checkout process that times out before you can complete a transaction is a pain point. These are not just technology issues -- they’re often dictated by competing teams with competing agendas, which results in conflicting processes.

There’s a lot at stake with not getting this right. Research firm eMarketer estimates that digital commerce will account for $1.3 trillion of global retail sales in 2014, an increase of 22% over 2013. That figure will grow to $2.5 trillion by 2018 – accounting 8.8% of all retail sales worldwide.

Where to begin? Mapping what McKinsey calls the customer decision journey will help companies identify the processes and programs required to improve the experience and capture new opportunities. Forrester explains a similar concept that it calls “ecosystem mapping”:

“Ecosystem mapping is a collaborative process that helps companies identify the set of complex interdependencies that shape all of their interactions with customers. Typically conducted in a workshop setting, teams identify and document the people, processes, policies, and technologies that create the customer experience. This includes those parts of the ecosystem that are in plain view of customers as well as those parts that influence the customer experience from behind the scenes. Ecosystem mapping helps teams identify previously hidden people, processes, policies, and technologies — and the customer interactions they influence.”

These mapping exercises will likely uncover plenty of embedded “gotchas,” including:

  • Channel conflicts: Rewarding functional units on channel-specific performance can lead teams to create paths or promotions that actually dissuade customers from purchasing through other channels. Retailers have to shed the mentality of caring where their customer acquires a product and instead create processes, workflows and incentives that ensure a consistent experience across all channels.
  • Lack of personalization: Just 29% of marketers offer personalized web experiences, according to ExactTarget, even though context and relevance are becoming key differentiators among consumers shopping online or through their phones. Companies should consider adding a handful of important personalization features to their websites to more closely replicate the high-touch shopping experience that the best brick-and-mortar retailers offer. That means more A/B testing to find out what works and what doesn’t - a process that must be ongoing and adaptive.
  • Neglected channels: Many retailers that are still playing catch-up with web and email channels have been quickly overwhelmed by consumers’ interest in mobile commerce. Mobile devices accounted for 57% of all online traffic and 35% of online sales on Christmas Day this past December. Companies need processes and workflows that optimize content for smaller screens and leverage mobile-specific features such as geolocation to further personalize the shopper’s experience.

Revamping outdated processes to address these pain points not only will drive important short-term improvements to your existing commerce business; it will also lead to insights that drive new and better experiences for your customers.

See the seventh post in this series: The Right Content at the Right Time

See the series ebook: Why Retailers Need to Reorganize for Effective Content-driven Commerce

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